Album Review: Surfer Blood – ‘Astro Coast’ (Kanine)

There’s a many-hued musical plumage here, but their best song remains their albatross

Ahhh, The Killer First Tune. The one that so perfectly encapsulates what you’re all about that it becomes impossible to follow. Curse of so many flash-in-the-pan bands past like… nope, sorry, forgotten. Everyone, so the saying goes, has got one great song in them. But two? Or 10? That’s more difficult.

[b]Surfer Blood[/b] have definitely got The One. Yeah, it is essentially [b]Brian Eno[/b]’s [b]‘Needles In The Camel’s Eye’[/b] as performed by [b]Weezer[/b], but turns out this is actually a fabulous idea that no-one else has thought of (plus the lyrics – [i]“Lucid afternoon dream/Cosmopolitan scene”[/i] – are magnificently meaningless poetry). [b]‘Swim (To Reach The End)’[/b] more than justified the avalanche of hype that followed [b]Surfer Blood[/b] at the end of 2009, and here it sticks out like a majestic, reverb-laced sore thumb. They’ve got plenty of other moves: [b]‘Floating Vibes’[/b] is hi-fi [b]Sonic Youth[/b] with a nifty [b]J Mascis[/b] solo thrown in; [b]‘Take It Easy’[/b] is pretty, light, calypso-disco topped with the sweetest of falsettos; two-minute instrumental [b]‘Neighbour Riffs’[/b] has the [b]‘Marquee Moon’[/b] entwining guitar line thing down pat; [b]‘Catholic Pagans’[/b] is a great title, and contains more good-stupid imagery ([i]“I fell apart and combed my hair/Whiskey shakes for two whole days”[/i]). In truth, though, it’s when they repeat the [b]‘Swim…’[/b] trick – big, simple riff, loads of echo on the vocals, as displayed on [b]‘Twin Peaks’[/b] and [b]‘Fast Jabroni’[/b] – that [b]Surfer Blood[/b] are at their most exciting, and when they sound like a band you’d want to get to know better.

All the best debuts are like a slap in the face, and [b]‘Astro Coast’[/b] shows a band who have got the slap in them, for sure. Here, though, there are just too many ideas for a first encounter. The good ones are special, no doubt, but a lot of the others are just other people’s and lack the stamp of a band who know exactly who they are and what they’re about. No one’s suggesting they should have just written 10 [b]‘Swim…’'[/b]s, but the six-minute [b]‘Anchorage’[/b], for example, is painfully anonymous.

The great ones, though, should just about see them through. For now.

[b]Hamish MacBain[/b]

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Click here to get Surfer Blood’s ‘Astro Coast’ from the Rough Trade shop